Two magpies landed in our garden the other evening. I was cooking dinner when I noticed them through the kitchen window.
We are settling into our new home in Mullenaglemig, Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland. The internet is up and running after two days of work and multiple cups of tea with Denis, our friendly installer. The boiler is actually boiling after Grainne stopped by to show us how to unplug the wood pellet feeder. And I’m learning to build a passable fire in our wood stove in the lounge. We are adjusting to the rhythm of Mullenaglemig.
The road to Mullenaglemig is what is referred to on the maps as a fourth class road, which means it has a maximum width of four meters. It also means that grass grows down the middle of the road. When you see a car in the distance you have time to calculate exactly where to pull off to let the other car pass.
Life is slower here. The lady in line in front of you chats away with the woman running the cash register, talking about all the gossip in town. After the grand total is announced, she begins to bag her groceries and chats some more. Then she searches in her purse for her wallet while she moves on to a different topic. “And how much is it?” she asks. Only then does she move her bags to the trolley, find the exact spot for her wallet in her purse, and say a long heartfelt goodbye. It’s our turn now and we begin to chat with the cash register lady. “Isn’t it a fine, dry day?” we begin.
Some things that we love we cannot get here. Chicken and vegetable stock. Tortillas. Heavy duty foil. Kosher salt. We do without. But the things we can get here take our breath away. The fish. My God, the fish. The fishing boats come into the harbor in the early morning with cod and hake and brill. Lemon sole and black sole. Shrimp and mussels. We hear there will be lobster soon. It all goes on ice at the fish shop and from there to our fridge. And then we have pan-fried hake sauced with pan juices or sautéed shrimp with a lemon butter reduction. Heaven. But I really need kosher salt.
So Sara orders kosher salt on the internet. (Thanks, Denis!) A week later we are out for our walk, about a mile down the road from our house, when the postal van stops beside us and the postman leans out the window and asks, “Sara Kennedy?” It’s our salt. I think we are fitting in.
Magpies are an omen in Ireland, for good or bad. There is an old children’s rhyme about magpies that begins:
One for sorrow,
Two for joy
Two magpies in our garden. Joy.